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The Magicians Audiobook

The Magicians: A Novel

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Audible Editor Reviews

Intellectually gifted but emotionally unfulfilled, Quentin Coldwater is as much at sea as any high school senior. He still takes refuge in the fantasy novel series he read as a kid, waiting for happiness to fall in his lap. Surprisingly, it does indeed seem to when an elite and secret college of magic recruits him. Mark Brahmall wonderfully inflects the gaggle of fallible little geniuses Quentin grows up with there: Elliott the flaming drunkard, Janet the flashy attention hog, Alice the wallflower, Josh the bumbling frat boy, and Penny the punk rocker. This is not the nice and polite world of Hogwarts. These 17-year-olds spend five years drinking, screwing, cursing, and occasionally buckling down to work with spells that sound more like chemistry labs than fantastic miracles.

Magic is hard, and growing up proves even harder. Brahmall ages this group of would-be adventurers, gradually inserting the pessimistic uncertainty that creeps in as their graduation approaches, and then the slovenly vulgarity that accompanies their post-grad malaise in New York. But their voices find fresh purpose and energy when Penny discovers that Fillory, the magical land of those books from their youth, is real. Fraught with the tensions sprouting between them, each member of Quentin's posse has reasons to escape into Fillory. Brahmall gives voice to everything from a birch tree to an ancient ram, as the group's quest for a brighter future turns ever more ugly and alarming. Quentin's once idyllic dream now corrupted, he struggles to regain a sense of self and return to the more banal hostilities of the real world.

This is a story narrated with all the wonderment and gravitas inherent in the great tradition of magical coming-of-age tales, to be sure, but it rests firmly on the rocky foundations of a realistic human volatility and longing that may want to keep the characters snatching defeat from the jaws of victory to their bitter end. This world is nothing like Narnia or Middle Earth, and listeners with knowledge of those places will find plenty of insider references here to keep them laughing through the disasters. Grossman has captured a shamefully universal set of psychological quandaries, and Brahmall has expressed them in tones that are terrifyingly recognizable. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

A thrilling and original coming-of- age novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world.

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he's still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin's fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren't black and white, love and sex aren't simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

©2009 Lev Grossman; (P)2009 Penguin

What the Critics Say

"This is a book for grown-up fans of children's fantasy and would appeal to those who loved Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Highly recommended." (Library Journal)
"Provocative, unput-downable....one of the best fantasies I've read in ages." (Fantasy & Science Fiction)
"The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea." (George R.R. Martin)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (13093 )
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Performance
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  •  
    james Hartselle, AL, United States 05-21-10
    james Hartselle, AL, United States 05-21-10 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow, then meh, then it ends"

    When I discovered that Lev Grossman is the brother of Austin Grossman (Soon I Will Be Invincible) I was immediately curious to see how their prose compared. It turns out Lev's writing is COMPLETELY different but no less brilliant.
    The first half of this book is amazing. Even though you know there will be revelations they are still surprising and they just keep coming.

    After graduation though, it just plods for a loooong time. It's also around this time that Quentin does something that completely removes any chance of his remaining a sympathetic character. The whole bit in Narnia...um, I mean "Fillory" is much more tedious than the mundane world but maybe that's intentional. Anyway, the ending ties it all together fairly well.

    My biggest complaint involves the drinking. Not the fact that everybody drinks (and believe me they do...HEAVILY...ALL THE TIME), but it's superfluous and pretentious to name all the various drinks as if anybody cares what TYPE of wine they drank way too much of for every single occasion.

    62 of 82 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shane Valparaiso, IN, USA 08-14-09
    Shane Valparaiso, IN, USA 08-14-09 Member Since 2017
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    "NOT Harry Potter for grownups"

    I won't go quite so far as to give this a two-star rating, but it's really not so great. It starts off with some potential, but once it gets moving along it's really more depressing than anything. I don't mind "dark" or more adult fantasy novels, but this is more of a novel about a bunch of boring, alcoholic, screwed up people that just happen to live in a world where magic is real.

    52 of 70 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erik Oakland, CA, United States 10-24-11
    Erik Oakland, CA, United States 10-24-11 Member Since 2017
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    "I was hoping for so much more..."

    Just not a big fan of this book. Kept hoping it would get better but I was unfortunately disappoointed. Keeps feeling like an adult Harry Potter without the fantastical world and great dialog. Was more like Harry Potter meets Wicked and I felt the same way about Wicked. Most of the book was narrator exposition with little actual dialog and when there was, it was boring and lacked dramatic tension. The protagonist, Quentin, was annoying at best, and there was nothing sympathetic about him to care about.

    40 of 54 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jamie D. Maine, USA 01-04-15
    Jamie D. Maine, USA 01-04-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Skip it."
    Any additional comments?

    Did not finish. Made it a little over halfway through the audiobook...and I'm quitting.<br/><br/>Touted as "Harry Potter for adults" naturally I wanted to read it. *sigh* Not even close. Zero likable characters, lame world building, a dull plot, pointless and kind of creepy sex scenes (probably to make it clear that "this is an adult book, not that silly childrens' book Harry Potter"), the use of "they" to just describe whole classes of students ("They spent that last semester in boredom...."), and references to real world literature (Tolkien, HP, The Phantom Tollbooth) as if name dropping would make this book better....and then an overlying theme of the main character being obsessed with a serious of childrens' books that is CLEARLY a reference to Narnia but thinly veiled under a different name.<br/><br/>Halfway through the first book, they're now graduating school/college, so that was five years in half a book. I'm assuming the rest of the series is about their time as "adult" magicians?....but that just makes the whole school section pointless. It WAS pointless, now that I think of it. Magic, instead of being exciting and wonderful, was boring and tedious to learn, thus their school years are tedious and uninteresting. Basically, there's no interesting in-depth look at how magic is learned, we're just told that "they" learn magic, and then pretty much just spend all their time drinking excessively, bored out of their minds, playing pool and some magical game that "they" obsess over, having lots of sex (and Antarctic orgies...yeah, that happened), and generally acting pretentious, selfish, and annoying. The author was big on "telling, not showing"...instead of showing us WHY Quentin and the other students loved their school, he just tells us that they did. Instead of showing us HOW they learned magic, most of the time he just tells us that they did.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Colin Briarcliff Manor, NY, United States 04-09-12
    Colin Briarcliff Manor, NY, United States 04-09-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Just a Disappointment"
    Any additional comments?

    I've spent far too long trying to convince myself that I will eventually like the characters and the story enough to look forward to continuing to listen. Today, I admitted to myself that it's just not happening. No particularly likable characters, no gripping drama, just dreary stories of their coming to grips with this

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda M NC, United States 01-23-12
    Amanda M NC, United States 01-23-12
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    "Wanted to like this book"

    The performance was really quite good, though I did find the tone to be sometimes a bit boring... but for what Bramhall was working with, he did a phenomenal job.

    I wanted to like this book, so much. I like the IDEA behind the book, a disaffected teenager finds that magic doesn't solve all of his problems, and how that fits into the real world. I even like the excessive nods to Narnia. I wanted to know how it ended, which is why I gave it two stars, though it's probably more a 1.5.

    But my god this book was boring. I kept waiting for something to happen and when something finally WOULD happen it would pass by quickly leaving several more pages of nothing to follow. Despite all this nothingness, most of the characters were undeveloped, unlikable, and unsympathetic.

    Also, good god Grossman - enough with the similes. It's like he took the English language and threw it in the washing machine and it bled all over everything. I would have liked this book if he had skipped all the boring nothingness and focused on the interesting.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KP United States 07-05-13
    KP United States 07-05-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Beware: A Good Idea Drowned in Teen Angst"

    I read this because a friend recommended it as a "Harry Potter for adults." (I loved the Harry Potter series.)

    And there were several elements that made this very enticing: a school only for magicians, another "magic" world, a special game that only magicians play, super-smart slightly outcast kids in the real world who excel at magic school, a journey to another world and a chance to bring down evil.

    HOWEVER... I ended up being very disappointed. The story spends way too much time focused on how bored these super-smart magicians are, and how much they drink, and how true happiness eludes them, and how they keep to themselves and are far too cool for the rest of the school, their families, and basically the rest of the world. It was impossible to get into the characters because I felt no sympathy for them. I wish there was more time spent on the magic and the other world, instead of detailing the relationships among the main group of kids.

    The narrator's monotone did nothing to help the dreariness of listening to the teen angst that ruled each twist of the story. He's one of those narrators who basically has the same voice for every character, and though he made a valiant effort at various accents, his performance fell short.

    17 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dubi New York, NY 08-25-14
    Dubi New York, NY 08-25-14

    People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "No Comparison To Harry"

    Let me top this off with the bottom line: There are thousands of Audible titles that I will consider listening to before I ever go back to this series. No, not even if I exhaust the rest of the Audible library.

    So this is how you go from four stars to one and a half stars: You start out well, with potential for five stars, by casting a misfit from Brooklyn as a college student who goes to a magical school instead of Princeton, learning about magic and the magical world as a young adult (rather you-know-who as a middle schooler).

    But then you go down to three stars when you rush through five years of college with nothing much happening -- which, I've since read, is supposed to be the point, except that it's, in a word, pointless. I'm sure you can name me a classic or two of modern literature that is about people being bored, and I'm just as sure that Lev Grossman is hardly comparable to the classic authors who wrote them.

    Nearly ten hours in, you go down to two stars when your "hero" realizes that after nothing much happening to that point, the adventure is about to begin. He actually says exactly that to himself, in case you as reader have failed to notice that you've so far wasted nearly ten hours of your life listening to nothing much, hoping that it may eventually lead to something interesting.

    Then the adventure becomes completely nonsensical, by which i mean, nothing makes sense, nothing is connected to what has come before and what comes later, and everything is completely inane. This too may have been the point, with Narnia now the target of the author's cynical satire in place of HP. But what good is a joke if no one knows it's a joke? And if it's not in the least bit funny? Or fun? (Not to mention that, as nonsensical as Narnia may be, it actually has meaning on a higher level.)

    That knocks the story down to one star, although there is a shred of redeeming quality in the first few hours for the overall rating to remain at two stars, for a net of one and a half. This book is, plain and simple, an overlong exercise in mental you-know-what, a book critic writing a book that is actually a poorly veiled criticism of two of the most beloved fantasy series ever. I for one and not pleased to have this fraud perpetrated against me.

    The Magicians has been called Harry Potter for adults, by no less than the author himself, who justifies his carbon copy of the HP formula by claiming some sort of parody. I call bullpucky. Harry Potter is (figuratively) magical and enchanting while tackling many of the same themes. This book is no more and no less an exercise in mental you know what by a critic egotistical enough to believe that he can write a worthwhile book himself, and in the end is less than a pimple on the scar on Harry Potter's forehead.

    41 of 57 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew 08-29-11
    Andrew 08-29-11

    Andy

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    "like literary torture"

    I managed to get through it but mostly regret it. The author rips off Harry Potter mixed with Narnia but in a way that says that even magical worlds are dreadfully mundane and unfair. The main character is so dreadful, wishing him and all of his friends horrible ugly deaths was the only reason I kept listening to the end. The author and the narrator embody such boredom and disenfranchisement attitude throughout the book, its almost a satire of itself. There is really no plot throught most of it and then when one appears, it is an exact replica of Narnia but seen through the eyes of some sadistic warped lense. Its truly horrid!

    11 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jodi 10-21-11
    Jodi 10-21-11

    Since having kids - the luxury of sitting down and reading a book is out of the question. Now I can put on good book for just me, or one for the kids while driving and everyone is at PEACE and no one is YELLING. Life is good.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "love the series. not the audio"

    I've tried to get in touch with the story, twice. Once way before the series started. I liked the series, then tried again
    The narrator BORES me, or the story. I just can't get into.

    25 of 35 people found this review helpful

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